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Age: 5 as a university.

How many lives? At least three. Started out as Kingston Tech in 1899 comprising schools of technology and art. In 1930, art split away. Came back into the fold in 1970 to form Kingston Poly. Attained university status in 1992.

Address: Four campuses in and around Kingston upon Thames, market town reeking of history on edge of south-west London - though the address is, in fact, Surrey. Penrhyn Road, five minutes' walk from town centre, is biggest site, housing science and technology. Art and design is at Knights Park; business, healthcare and the school of music at Kingston Hill; engineering at Roehampton Vale.

Ambience: Pleasant part of London, containing two parks and Hampton Court, one-time home to Henry VIII. Still some village character left though Kingston is now swamped with cars, buses and new development. Plenty of shops, if you need them. Each site is very different. Penrhyn is noisy and busy; Kingston Hill is the most bucolic; Roehampton Vale is full of hard-working engineers; and Knights Park contains hyper-trendy arty types wandering by a small river and green terraces.

Vital statistics: A former poly, it is famous for art and design, including fashion, graphic design, furniture and product design, as well as for business courses and aerospace engineering (Hawker and British Aerospace are based locally).

Added value: Pioneering work on peer-assisted learning encourages second- year students to run study skills groups for first years to help with "difficult" subjects such as chemistry, information systems and electronic systems. Kingston has helped other universities to develop similar schemes. Big European links: has staff/student exchanges with 163 universities throughout Europe. And lots of programmes for mature students - 800 students in their 30s, 40s and 50s enrolled in 23 subject areas.

Easy to get into? So-so. Law and architecture demand grades BBC at A- level; business BCC; human sciences CCD; sciences DDE.

Glittering alumni: Eric Clapton of Cream; Angie Bowie (David's first wife); Lawrence Dallaglio, England rugby player; Helen Storey and John Richmond, fashion designers; actor Trevor Eve; writers Nick Hornby (did his PGCE there) and Wendy Perriam; Glenda Bailey, editor of the American edition of Marie Claire.

Transport links: Free university bus service shuttles between campuses and stops in the town centre and at local bus and railway stations. London is 20 minutes by train. Motorways close by. And Heathrow a 45-minute drive.

Who's the boss? Robert Smith, former dean of engineering and applied science at Southampton University, who's retiring in December. Professor Peter Scott, pro-vice-chancellor at Leeds University and former editor of the Times Higher Education Supplement, takes over next year.

Teaching rating: Modern languages, sociology and electronic engineering awarded 21 out of a maximum of 24. History of art, architecture and design 20 out of 24.

Research: 87th out of 101 in the research assessment exercise. Art and design achieved the highest score of 3a (out of a maximum of 5).

Financial health: Claims to be in the black with a surplus of around pounds 1m, and is working to raise extra cash through conferences and vacation letting of halls.

Night-life: Lively club scene. Student bar and cafe on three of the four sites. Plus live bands and club nights, cabaret and comedy on campus.

Cheap to live in? Rooms in student halls range from pounds 50.50-pounds 58.50 a week (all halls self-catering). Rooms in private accommodation average pounds 50 a week.

Buzz sentence: It's my party (a reference to the active night-life)n

Next week: Lampeter.